Intermittency of Large Methane Emitters in the Permian Basin

Daniel H. Cusworth, Riley M. Duren, Andrew K. Thorpe, Winston Olson-Duvall, Joseph Heckler, John W. Chapman, Michael L. Eastwood, Mark C. Helmlinger, Robert O. Green, Gregory P. Asner, Philip E. Dennison, Charles E. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


The Permian Basin is the largest and fastest growing oil and gas (O&G) producing region in the United States. We conducted an extensive airborne campaign across the majority of the Permian in September-November, 2019 with imaging spectrometers to quantify strong methane (CH4) point source emissions at facility-scales, including high frequency sampling to evaluate intermittency. We identified 1100 unique and heavy-tailed distributed sources that were sampled at least 3 times (average 8 times), showing 26% average persistence. Sources that were routinely persistent (50-100%) make up only 11% of high emitting infrastructure but 29% of quantified emissions from this population, potentially indicative of leaking equipment that merits repair. Sector attribution of plumes shows that 50% of detected emissions result from O&G production, 38% from gathering and boosting, and 12% from processing. This suggests a 20% relative shift from upstream to midstream compared to other US O&G basins for large emitters. Simultaneous spectroscopic identification of flares found that 12% of detected Permian CH4 plume emissions were associated with either active or inactive flares. Frequent, high-resolution monitoring is necessary to accurately understand intermittent methane superemitters across large, heterogeneous O&G basins and efficiently pinpoint persistent leaks for mitigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-573
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 13 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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